Book Review: The Excellent Adventures of Sassy and Tumble

The Excellent Adventures of Sassy and Tumble is a children’s book by Ben Hay. The book has 11 short stories describing the adventures Sassy and Tumble go on. 

[Spoilers Ahead!]

The author has done a great job in bringing a unique setting to a children’s book. Sassy and Tumble live in a town at the North Pole. He mentions how people live in igloos, and it’s hard for the compass to point North at the North Pole. 

The book started out great. Sassy and Tumble’s first adventure was looking for treasure after finding a map with X marked on it. Unfortunately, the book became confusing soon thereafter. 

I wasn’t sure what Tumble was, and I assumed Sassy was a human because nothing in the book showed me otherwise. Regarding Tumble, it was mentioned that he had a paw and no fingers and that he is ‘canon ball shaped’. The illustrations, unfortunately, did not help in this situation.

I was also confused about the knowledge level of Sassy and Tumble. Early in the book, it is pointed out that Tumble knows the alphabet but can’t read well if there’s wind or it’s too sunny. Sassy is said to be a better reader since he reads a lot of books anyway.

In one story, Sassy is the one who counts during a game of hide and seek because he can count properly, and Tumble and a friend of theirs named Poppy can’t. Then, in another story, Tumble and Sassy are in school, and they are learning negative numbers. Why would they learn negative numbers when they can’t even count numbers well?

In one adventure, it is mentioned that Sassy read a book on subliminal messaging the night before and was even able to apply it later. At the same time, he said he painstakingly had to memorize the word ‘finesse’, and he couldn’t even say it a second time correctly.

Poppy is a lion trainer at a circus. There is a part in the book where she says she wants to create a new act. Sassy and Tumble brainstorm and come up with a few suggestions. One of them was to set Leo, the lion, on fire after he wore a flameproof suit. While I understand that the suggestion stemmed from the thought of setting the hoop he goes through on fire, it is still uncomfortable to read about it. There was a slight mention of setting Tumble on fire too. 

The book also needs editing as I found grammatical errors. I felt that while adventures can be dangerous, there are risky activities that took place in the plot that were unnecessary and did lead to harm (skiing incident, the first aid Tumble gave Poppy after she injured herself, the dagger throwing). The word ‘brave’ was used quite a bit which shouldn’t be used for those kinds of adventures.

While the setup is good and there was potential, some disappointing parts and inconsistencies in character traits brought down my impression of the book. As you keep reading, you keep trying to figure out what the characters are and why they do what they do. Additionally, children are impressionable, so children’s book authors are responsible for passing good messages to their young readers. Unfortunately, this book did not hit the mark.